The body is my form. Video is my language.
Each of the videos in the ‘Finding Space’ series uses the body as an entry point to human experience. The work explores how we may identify ourselves against landscapes and how our physical form in turn sits within the frame of the camera and the environment.
With a background in dance from age four, Kirsty Lee has more recently picked up the camera in a bid to capture the ephemeral nature of her art form. Video has become a new technique and system of choreography in which she positions herself on both sides of the camera with the intention of connecting both experiences as ‘body’ and ‘viewer’, ‘moment’ and ‘memory’.
With her own physical form bowing down from performing technically, Lee has pivoted her own view on the body in space. ‘Finding Space’ brings light to a new series that highlights the conversation of gestural language. At times these seemingly microscopic movements and the simplicity in their form and action, can be the most profound.
Lee states, ‘I am interested in the internal breath of action, in creating a moment that is honest, one not convoluted with unnecessary action. For me this is sourced from the everyday body and in turn these known gestural languages become tangible and I hope, a shared human experience.... A sense of stillness and rest in the body is something really important to me.’
Imbued with colour, speed, repetition and form, which have become the signature of Lee’s video works, material informing this series has been sourced from the natural environment, which has contributed a genuine texture and layer to the works. The human body exists within these natural environments, not apart, and the intent was always to marry together the environment and the landscape existing through the human body with improvisational exploration and play. Accompanying this visual work is an aural exploration of the landscapes. Found sounds drawn from the windmill, water, birds and wind have been fragmented and looped into a five minute audio piece that supports the work.
The works are a response to the physical action of finding space. Created in response to three regions, to time spent in, and with the communities – the works are reflective of Lee’s current practice.
With her background in performing arts, Lee is able to be hyper-aware of the role of the ‘audience’ or ‘viewer’. With this in mind, Lee approaches her works with a sensitivity, to people, and to space, and enables a meeting point for dialogue to occur within the work.
Lee’s experiences in Hampton, Millmerran and Goombungee, have simultaneously been vastly different, while sharing a vague resemblance. Each region shared a sense of space, change and an undeniable dry and still landscape. With the intent of recreating known spaces, as colourful and thriving metropolises, Lee’s pivot was to demonstrate the colour and texture of the existing landscapes as they were – this was largely a response to her initial encounter of each community; Lee was quietly captivated by the charm, colour and sense of stillness sweeping over the body of the land.
All roads lead back to dance – for Lee, dance is intrinsically embodied in her work, and life. It is a point of expression and also a point of departure.
It is not uncommon for Lee to venture out to the pines of Hampton. Works have frequently been made in this space, and for some time, it was a geographical point for her to create and share in work with her colleagues. Lee’s love of the pines started from a very young age with annual family road trips from Nambucca Heads, NSW to her grandparent’s home on the Sunshine Coast. Lee fondly recalls looking out from the window of their Kombi and getting lost in the rows and rows of flickering pines on the highway.
Lee states, ‘I can drive 30 minutes out to Hampton and return to Toowoomba feeling like everything has shifted, slowed down… there is something about the magnitude of the pines, it’s not like you feel insignificant against their age and grandeur… you feel physically small but spiritually vast’.
The intersection of Hampton, for Lee, reads as a point where two or more things come together and ultimately have an effect on one another. The new work is seen through the movement of objects as they mimic the lines and curves of existing space, although simple in form, we are privy to a somewhat patterning of dance.
The manufactured intersection at Hampton was the entry point to being able to see the same intersection within a natural environment, in this instance within the pine forests. Both locations are a thoroughfare. Topographically, if you took a shot of each location from above, they’d look the same. This relationship between the spaces is extended through the use of body mapping the pathway of the cars, and the use of ‘real time’. An obvious juxtaposition of the built environment against the natural landscape inadvertently deals with the idea of development. Although not as a negative construct. Lee explains, ‘I don’t find development offensive, it feels quite natural, and in both spaces the intersection feels organic in its form. From the flow of the cars, the path taken by both object and body; everything moves, but it is linked by their horizons’.
Millmeran was a direct response to the Yarramalong Weir, a site suggested during the community conversations. After three visits to the region, Lee was continually surprised by her sense of wonder and how quickly the landscape shifted, even if subtly. Dirt hills continued to be sculpted and carved out over the weeks, the water levels continued to retreat and the local wildlife moved in and out like seasoned travellers.
This work in particular stems from an emotive space; the sensation of walking into a frenzy of screeching birds, the rise and fall of the terrain and a personal sense of belonging felt when around water. Through conversation, Lee began to connect the Yarramalong Weir as a point of memory, experience and belonging; a place to gather and share; an impression that this was a place to weekend, after working the land.
To extend this conversation, the work presents rhythmical and dynamic shifts through the ‘real time’ body, correlating to those seen in the natural landscape and day to day living. Resonating with Lee on a personal level, the continual loops, their energies and the simulated colours give a sense of push and pull, fight or flight, work and rest. To Lee, this is the everyday.
Both captivated and confused by the stillness of Goombungee, Lee wanted to capture her initial instincts of the landscape; her biggest concern was how she was going to create a moving image from such stillness. Post community consultation, a drive down a long stretch of road had Lee lock in to a white plastic bag tethered to an old wire fence. This lone image became the centre point for this region’s work.
Lee was interested in stripping the body back from movement in an attempt to have it bleed into its background. Draped in a large white plastic sheet, the movement is an organic response to the element of wind surrounding it. A windmill is shown in this split screen image, as an object that converts the energy of wind into rotational energy. We see this unharnessed energy through the flickering and mirage-like action of its blades. The conversation between wind, energy and water is at the forefront.
Although dry and mute in its tone, Lee found the landscape of Goombungee hypnotic in its repetition. She states, ‘nothing will ever be as captivating via the camera as I see it in my mind’s eye. I’ve yet to truly understand how this can be captured and translated, perhaps I never will’.
Kirsty Lee’s video works ‘Finding Space’ have been commissioned for The Regions. Alexandra Lawson Gallery (ALG) is proud to partner with Toowoomba Regional Council for this Council initiated Regional Arts Development Fund Project: The Regions.